Turkish Migrant Death in Greece Prompts Accusations of Torture

The death of a Turkish migrant after he traveled to a Greek island has prompted demands for Ankara to take up the case with Athens, amid accusations of torture and the illegal “push-back” of migrant boats. Barış Büyüksu Despite graduating from university, 30-year-old Barış Büyüksu was struggling to find a well-paid job. At the end of September, he left his home in the Turkish city of Izmir for what he hoped would be a new life in western Europe. It was the last time his family would see him alive. Büyüksu paid people smugglers for a place on a migrant boat, which took him from the Turkish coastline around Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos, a journey of just a few kilometers. The smuggling gang gave him a fake Bulgarian identity card. Büyüksu planned to reach Athens and then travel to France, a journey several of his friends had already successfully made. He hoped to find a job and save money before returning to Turkey. Detention On October 21, as he was waiting on the dockside in Kos to board a ferry to Athens, a friend told the family he witnessed Büyüksu being detained by police and then bundled into an unmarked black van. VOA has not been able to verify this account. The following day, back in Büyüksu’s hometown of Izmir, his family received a call from Turkish police, who told them their son was dead – and that his body bore signs of torture. The Turkish coast guard says it found Büyüksu, badly injured but still alive, in an inflatable boat that had been pushed back into Turkish waters by Greece. The police report says 15 Palestinian asylum-seekers were also on board, including three women and three children. Turkish authorities say Büyüksu died before a medical team could reach him. Baris’ father, Reyis Büyüksu, spoke to VOA at the family home in Izmir. “A policeman from Bodrum central police station … said your son has been killed by Greeks and said that I need to be at the police station at 8:00 in the morning. We picked up the body from the forensic medicine institute and brought it here and buried him,” he said. “My son being killed is not only a problem of Turkey, but it is also a problem for humanity, this is a crime against humanity. We don’t want any other family to experience … Continue reading “Turkish Migrant Death in Greece Prompts Accusations of Torture”

Death of Turkish Migrant in Greece Prompts Accusations of Torture

The death of a Turkish migrant after he traveled to a Greek island late last year has prompted demands for Turkey’s foreign ministry to take up the case. As Henry Ridgwell reports, a Turkish lawmaker has accused the Greek government of committing murder — but Greece denies any knowledge. Camera: Memet Aksakal …

Turkey Now Willing to Back Finland’s NATO Membership but Ruling Out Sweden 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday his country would consider evaluating Finland’s NATO membership bid separately from Sweden’s. Until now, Turkey threatened to veto both countries’ bids after the burning of a Quran in Stockholm sparked outrage in Ankara. The Turkish foreign minister told reporters in Ankara that Turkey is ready to assess Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership individually. Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey can evaluate the Finnish and Swedish NATO applications separately. Cavusoglu added that such an approach made sense, given one country’s application was more problematic than the other. The Turkish foreign minister’s comments echo President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement on Sunday, suggesting Finland would face little difficulty joining. Erdogan also repeated his demand that Stockholm extradite 120 people whom Turkey considers terrorists. Erdogan accuses the Swedish government of allowing its country to become a sanctuary for terrorists’ organizations that are fighting Turkey. Swedish officials insist the extradition demands are a matter for the courts. Turkish-Swedish relations deteriorated further in January after far-right protesters were allowed to burn a Quran in Stockholm, causing outrage in Ankara. But Finnish-Turkish relations got a boost this month, with Helsinki allowing the sale of specialized steel to Turkey’s defense industry, ending Finland’s military embargo on Ankara over human rights concerns. Ilhan Uzgel, a political analyst at the Kisa Dalga news portal, says Erdogan is seeking to maximize the concessions from NATO to allow its enlargement, given the upcoming presidential elections expected to be held in May. “It’s not like a strategic decision, but it’s more like leverage that Erdogan needs in domestic politics. But this can be solvable. Under pressure, Erdogan makes concessions, that’s for sure. But he has to get something. He has learned this over the years that anything can be turned into a bargaining chip. An issue of transnationalism that he is very good at it. So, he knows how to make bargains. I mean, he has learned it in 20 years [in power],” said Uzgel. Until now, Finland and Sweden have been committed to joining NATO together. But earlier this month, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Helsinki could review that stance if Sweden became permanently blocked from the military alliance. Asli Aydintasbas of the Brookings Institution says Washington’s role may be critical to ending the impasse. “The U.S. holds important cards. The question has been whether some of its policy goals can be achieved by actually keeping … Continue reading “Turkey Now Willing to Back Finland’s NATO Membership but Ruling Out Sweden “

Boris Johnson Says Putin Threatened Missile Strike in Call 

In a new BBC documentary, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Britain with a missile strike. Johnson says the conversation took place during a phone call in the run up to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year. Johnson recalled the Russian leader saying, “It would only take a minute… Jolly.” Johnson, however, said he did not take the threat seriously in their “extraordinary” call. “He was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” Johnson said of Putin. “It’s a lie,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters about Johnson’s interpretation of the telephone conversation. “There were no threats of missiles.” Johnson also told the BBC he tried to dissuade Putin from war, telling him Ukraine would not be joining NATO for the “foreseeable future.” Johnson also said he told the Russian leader that an invasion of Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions. Johnson, who stepped down last year in the wake of a series of scandals, sought to position London as Ukraine’s top ally in the West. While in office he visited Kyiv several times and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy frequently. …

Azerbaijan to Evacuate Embassy in Iran After Fatal Shooting

Azerbaijan will evacuate embassy staff and family members from Iran on Sunday, the foreign ministry said, two days after a gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people in an attack Baku branded as an “act of terrorism.” Police in Tehran have said they arrested a suspect and Iranian authorities condemned Friday’s incident, but said the gunman appeared to have had a personal, not a political, motive. The incident came amid increased tensions between the neighboring countries over Iran’s treatment of its large ethnic Azeri minority and over Azerbaijan’s decision this month to appoint its first ever ambassador to Israel. After the attack, the Azeri foreign ministry said it summoned Iran’s ambassador in Baku to demand justice and would evacuate embassy staff from Tehran. It gave no further details, including whether the embassy would continue to function. Earlier, the ministry said the shooting was the result of Tehran failing to heed its calls for better security. CCTV footage obtained by Reuters showed the attacker forcing his way into the embassy building and shooting at two men before a third embassy employee grapples him away. A grey-haired man identified as the attacker was later shown on Iranian state TV saying he had acted to secure the release of his Azeri wife who he believed was being held at the embassy. A young woman identified as the man’s daughter said her mother was in Azerbaijan. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for “a comprehensive investigation” of the incident and sent his condolences to Azerbaijan and the dead man’s family, state media said. …

Russians Gone From Ukraine Village, Fear and Hardship Remain

When night falls in Tatiana Trofimenko’s village in southern Ukraine, she pours sunflower oil that aid groups gave her into a jar and seals it with a wick-fitted lid. A flick of a match, and the make-do candle is lit. “This is our electricity,” Trofimenko, 68, says. It has been over 11 weeks since Ukrainian forces wrested back her village in Kherson province from Russian occupation. But liberation has not diminished the hardship for residents of Kalynivske, both those returning home and the ones who never left. In the peak of winter, the remote area not far from an active front line has no power or water. The sounds of war are never far. Russian forces withdrew from the western side of the Dnieper River, which bisects the province, but remain in control of the eastern side. A near constant barrage of fire from only a few kilometers away, and the danger of leftover mines leaving many Ukrainians too scared to venture out, has rendered normalcy an elusive dream and cast a pall over their military’s strategic victory. Still, residents have slowly trickled back to Kalynivske, preferring to live without basic services, dependent on humanitarian aid and under the constant threat of bombardment than as displaced people elsewhere in their country. Staying is an act of defiance against the relentless Russian attacks intended to make the area unlivable, they say. “This territory is liberated. I feel it,” Trofimenko says. “Before, there were no people on the streets. They were empty. Some people evacuated, some people hid in their houses.” “When you go out on the street now, you see happy people walking around,” she says. The Associated Press followed a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy into the village on Saturday, when blankets, solar lamps, jerrycans, bed linens and warm clothes were delivered to the local warehouse of a distribution center. Russian forces captured Kherson province in the early days of the war. The majority of the nearly 1,000 residents in Kalynivske remained in their homes throughout the occupation. Most were too fragile or ill to leave, others did not have the means to escape. Gennadiy Shaposhnikov lies on the sofa in a dark room, plates piled up beside him. The 83-year old’s advanced cancer is so painful it is hard for him to speak. When a mortar destroyed the back of his house, neighbors rushed to his rescue and patched … Continue reading “Russians Gone From Ukraine Village, Fear and Hardship Remain”

Friends Mourn Foreign Volunteers Killed Helping Civilians in Ukraine

Friends and volunteers gathered Sunday at Kyiv’s St. Sophia’s Cathedral to say goodbye to Andrew Bagshaw, a New Zealand scientist who was killed in Ukraine with another volunteer while they were trying to evacuate people from a front-line town. Bagshaw, 48, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer Christopher Parry, 28, went missing this month while heading to the town of Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region, where heavy fighting was taking place. Volunteers spoke of their memories of Bagshaw and read tributes from his family. Nikolletta Stoyanova, a friend in Ukraine, shared memories of his bravery. “Even if no one wanted to go to Soledar, they can do that. Because if he understood that someone needs help, they need to do this help for these people,” Stoyanova said, speaking in English. Bagshaw’s father, Phil, told reporters in New Zealand that his son wanted to do something to help. “He was a very intelligent man, and a very independent thinker,” he said. “And he thought a long time about the situation in Ukraine, and he believed it to be immoral. He felt the only thing he could do of a constructive nature was to go there and help people.” Ukrainian police said Jan. 9 that they lost contact with Bagshaw and Parry after the two headed for Soledar. Their bodies were later recovered. A Ukrainian official reported Wednesday that the defending forces made an organized retreat from the salt-mining town. In a Jan. 24 statement, Parry’s family said he was “drawn to Ukraine in March in its darkest hour.” They said he’d “helped those most in need, saving over 400 lives plus many abandoned animals.” Friends said the men’s bodies would be handed over to relatives in the U.K. In the south of Ukraine, Russian forces Sunday heavily shelled the city of Kherson, killing three people and wounding six others, the regional administration said. It said the shelling damaged a hospital, school, bus station, post office, bank and residential buildings. Among those reported injured were two women in the hospital at the time: a nurse and a cafeteria worker. Russian forces retreated across the Dnieper River from Kherson in November, but still hold much of the province of the same name. On Sunday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine and its Western allies of war crimes in connection with the shelling of two hospitals in Russian-held parts of Ukraine. Russian … Continue reading “Friends Mourn Foreign Volunteers Killed Helping Civilians in Ukraine”

Turkey’s Erdogan Signals Finland’s NATO Bid May Be Considered Over Sweden

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan signaled on Sunday that Ankara may agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm. “We may deliver Finland a different message (on their NATO application) and Sweden would be shocked when they see our message. But Finland should not make the same mistake Sweden did,” Erdogan said in a televised speech aired on Sunday. Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and need all member countries’ approval to join. Turkey and Hungary are yet to ratify the Nordic countries’ membership. Turkey says Sweden, in particular, harbors what Ankara says are militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. “We gave Sweden a list of 120 persons and told them to extradite those terrorists in their country. If you don’t extradite them, then sorry about that,” Erdogan said, referring to Turkey’s agreement with Sweden and Finland last June over their NATO application. Turkey suspended NATO talks with Sweden and Finland last week after a protest in Stockholm in which a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his country wanted to restore NATO dialogue with Turkey, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday it was meaningless to restart talks. Cavusoglu also said there was “no offer to evaluate Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership separately.” …

Germany Won’t Send Fighter Jets to Ukraine, Says Scholz

Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated Sunday that Germany will not send fighter jets to Ukraine, as Kyiv steps up calls for more advanced weapons from the West to help repel Russia’s invasion. Scholz only just agreed on Wednesday to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and to allow other European countries to send theirs, after weeks of intense debate and mounting pressure from allies. “I can only advise against entering into a constant bidding war when it comes to weapons systems,” Scholz said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper. “If, as soon as a decision (on tanks) has been made, the next debate starts in Germany, that doesn’t come across as serious and undermines citizens’ confidence in government decisions.” Scholz’s decision to green-light the tanks was accompanied by a U.S. announcement that it would send 31 of its Abrams tanks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Berlin and Washington for the move, seen as a breakthrough in efforts to support the war-torn country. But Zelenskyy immediately stressed that Ukraine needed more heavy weapons from NATO allies to fend off Russian troops, including fighter jets and long-range missiles. Scholz in the interview warned against raising “the risk of escalation,” with Moscow already sharply condemning the tank pledges. “There is no war between NATO and Russia. We will not allow such an escalation,” he said. The chancellor added that it was “necessary” to continue speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The last phone call between the leaders was in early December. “I will talk to Putin by phone again,” Scholz said. “But, of course, it’s also clear that as long as Russia continues to wage war with unabated aggression, the current situation will not change.” …

Environmentalists Protest Airport Project Near Albanian Bird Sanctuary

Environmentalists protested over the weekend at the building site of a new airport in Albania’s south meant to boost tourism but which they say will endanger sanctuaries for some 200 bird species including flamingos and pelicans. The picturesque Vjose-Narte lagoon close to Albania’s Adriatic seaside is a crucial stop for flocks of birds in their annual migration between Europe and Africa. The government is building the airport just 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the Adriatic coast with pristine sandy beaches which the poor Balkan nation hopes will attract more foreign tourists. “For those who think this airport will bring development, in reality this airport will bring only destruction,” tourist guide Alben Kola told Reuters on Saturday as he and more than 100 environmentalists and ornithologists held their protest. The European Union, which Albania aims to join one day, has said the airport project, launched in December 2021 and due for completion at the end of 2024, was undertaken in contradiction with national and international laws on protecting biodiversity. The committee of the Bern Convention that works to protect European wildlife and natural habitats has said Albania should suspend the construction of the airport. “This shows that this nature wealth belongs not only to us but to the whole of Europe and foreign governments are doing more to protect it than we do,” said Joni Vorpsi, from the NGO Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) that has been fighting for years to protect the lagoon. In November an Albanian court rejected a lawsuit filed by local NGOs against the construction of the airport but they plan to appeal. Vorpsi said the airport, which would serve the southern coastal city of Vlore, not only would destroy avian habitats but raise the risk of aircraft collisions with big birds. The Swiss firm leading the project, Mabetex, has said the take-off and landing paths of planes there would not affect bird routes. It said the runway would be 3.5 kilometres from the bird sanctuary and 5 km away from major bird migration routes. …

French PM Says No Dice on Pension Age as Strikes Loom 

France’s prime minister on Sunday ruled out backtracking on a plan to raise the retirement age as unions prepared for another day of mass protests against the contested reform. An increase in the minimum retirement age to 64 from the current 62 is part of a flagship reform package pushed by President Emmanuel Macron to ensure the future financing of France’s pensions system. After union protests against the change brought out over a million people into the streets on January 19, the government signaled there was wiggle room on some measures, including the number of contributing years needed to qualify for a full pension, special deals for people who started working very young, and provisions for mothers who interrupted their careers to look after their children. But the headline age limit of 64 was not up for discussion, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Sunday. “This is now non-negotiable,” she told the FranceInfo broadcaster. While unions have welcomed the government’s readiness for negotiation on parts of the plan, they say the proposed 64-year rule has to go. Calling the reform “unfair” France’s eight major unions, in a rare show of unity, said they hoped to “mobilize even more massively” on Tuesday, their next scheduled protest day, than at the showing earlier this month. ‘Even more people’ “It’s looking like there will be even more people”, said Celine Verzeletti, member of the hard left union CGT’s confederation leadership. Pointing to opinion polls, Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, said that “the people disagree strongly with the project, and that view is gaining ground.” It would be “a mistake” for the government to ignore the mobilization, he warned. Unions and the government both see Tuesday’s protests as a major test. Some 200 protests are being organized countrywide, with a big march planned for Paris, culminating in a demonstration outside the National Assembly where parliamentary commissions are to start examining the draft law on Monday. The leftwing opposition has submitted more than 7,000 amendments to the draft in a bid to slow its path through parliament. Macron’s allies are short of an absolute majority in parliament and will need votes from conservatives to approve the pensions plan. The government has the option of forcing the bill through without a vote under special constitutional powers, but at the risk of triggering a vote of no confidence, and possibly new parliamentary elections. In addition … Continue reading “French PM Says No Dice on Pension Age as Strikes Loom “

 UK Prime Minister Fires Conservative Party Chair

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has fired the chairman of the Conservative Party. Sunak removed Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday, following an investigation into Zahawi’s personal taxes. The prime minister said in a letter to Zahawi that “it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code.” Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser who conducted the investigation into Zahawi’s taxes, said in a letter to Sunak that Zahawi showed “insufficient regard” for the requirement “to be honest, open and an exemplary leader through his own behaviour.”  Some information in this report came from Reuters.   …

Pope Francis to Visit Two Fragile African Nations: DR Congo and South Sudan 

 Pope Francis starts a trip on Tuesday to two fragile African nations often forgotten by the world, where protracted conflicts have left millions of refugees and displaced people grappling with hunger. The Jan. 31-Feb 5 visit to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, takes the 86-year-old pope to places where Catholics make up about half of the populations and where the Church is a key player in health and educational systems as well as in democracy-building efforts. The trip was scheduled to take place last July but was postponed because Francis was suffering a flare-up of a chronic knee ailment. He still uses a wheelchair and cane but his knee has improved significantly. Both countries are rich in natural resources — DRC in minerals and South Sudan in oil — but beset with poverty and strife. DRC, which is the second-largest country in Africa and has a population of about 90 million, is getting its first visit by a pope since John Paul II travelled there in 1985, when it was known as Zaire. Francis had planned to visit the eastern city of Goma but that stop was scrapped following the resurgence of fighting between the army and the M23 rebel group in the area where Italy’s ambassador, his bodyguard and driver were killed in an ambush in 2021. Francis will stay in the capital, Kinshasa, but will meet there with victims of violence from the east. “Congo is a moral emergency that cannot be ignored,” the Vatican’s ambassador to DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, told Reuters. According to the U.N. World Food Program, 26 million people in the DRC face severe hunger. The country’s 45 million-strong Catholic Church has a long history of promoting democracy and, as the pope arrives, it is gearing up to monitor elections scheduled for December. “Our hope for the Congo is that this visit will reinforce the Church’s engagement in support of the electoral process,” said Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican, Christ Trott, who spent many years as a diplomat in Africa. DRC is getting its first visit by a pope since John Paul II travelled there in 1985, when it still was known as Zaire. Unprecedented joint pilgrimage The trip takes on an unprecedented nature on Friday when the pope leaves Kinshasa for South Sudan’s capital, Juba. That leg is being made with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Moderator of the … Continue reading “Pope Francis to Visit Two Fragile African Nations: DR Congo and South Sudan “

Church Helps Mining Community Evolve in Dark, Warming Arctic

The warm glow of Svalbard Kirke’s lights gleams on the snow-covered mountain slope from where the church stands like a beacon over this remote Norwegian Arctic village, cloaked in the polar night’s constant darkness. A century after it was founded to minister to the coal miners who settled Longyearbyen, the Lutheran house of faith is open 24/7, serving as a crucial gathering point for a community navigating a drastic change in its identity. The last Norwegian coal mine in Svalbard – an archipelago that’s one of the world’s fastest warming spots – was slated to close this year and only got a reprieve until 2025 because of the energy crisis driven by the war in Ukraine. For the lone pastor in this fragile, starkly beautiful environment, the challenge is to fulfill the church’s historical mission of ministering to those in crisis while addressing a pressing and divisive contemporary challenge. “We pray every Sunday for everyone who’s affected by climate change,” the Rev. Siv Limstrand said. “We also have a role to play as church when it comes to thinking theologically, about what are we doing to the creation.” On treeless land hemmed by glaciers, mountains and deep fjords, Longyearbyen is a town of visible paradoxes. The open water of the rapidly warming sea laps up against old coal mining conveyors. Tourists come by the environmentally unfriendly planeload to seek pristine wilderness they can only explore with guides armed against polar bears. Right below where the first mine was built, Svalbard Kirke beckons to its fireplace-warmed lounge that opens into the sanctuary. A cup of coffee or hymnbooks in multiple languages are always available – as long as visitors first remove their shoes in the entryway, as miners used to do with soot-covered boots. “You don’t have to be very religious. They have room for everybody,” said Leonard Snoeks, whose daughter sings in Polargospel, the church’s children’s choir, and whose wife is working on the city’s transition to renewable energy. The switch this year from coal-fired to diesel-powered energy production at the plant – which prompted the mine’s original decision to shut down – is expected to halve carbon dioxide emissions even as the search for long-term, cleaner alternatives continues, said Torbjørn Grøtte, Longyearbyen’s energy transition project leader. As change swirls faster than the snowdrifts covering Longyearbyen’s few miles of paved roads, the church’s anchoring role seems poised to remain the … Continue reading “Church Helps Mining Community Evolve in Dark, Warming Arctic”

Burkina Rally Celebrate Word That French Troops Will Leave

Thousands of demonstrators rallied in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, on Saturday in support of the ruling junta, days after France confirmed its special forces there would withdraw, according to an AFP journalist at the rally. Packing Nation Square in central Ouagadougou, protesters held signs bearing slogans including “Down with imperialism,” “Down with French policy in Africa” and “Forward for Burkina’s sovereignty.” “We do not want any more foreign military bases on our soil,” Lazare Yameogo, spokesperson for the Inter-African Revolutionary Movement told the crowd. “We want respect and a win-win cooperation. “We will remain on the lookout until Burkina Faso is liberated from Western imperialism,” he added. Former colonial power France has special forces based in Ouagadougou, but its presence has come under intense scrutiny as anti-French sentiment in the region grows. Paris confirmed this week that the troops, deployed to help fight a years-long jihadi insurgency, would leave within a month. Anger within the military at the government’s failure to stem the insurgency, which has raged since 2015, fueled two coups in Burkina Faso last year. Violence by insurgents linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group has killed thousands of people and forced around 2 million more to flee their homes. Junta leader Captain Ibrahim Traore was acting for the West African state’s sovereignty and “an army powerful enough to fight jihadists,” said Alassane Kouanda, head of an association backing the planned transition to civilian rule. Some observers say the Burkinabe government’s request for France to withdraw its troops is reminiscent of the ideals of former president, left-wing anti-colonial hero Thomas Sankara. A coalition of organizations supporting Sankara’s ideas welcomed “the complete liberation of our country from the yokes of Francafrique, imperialism and deadly capitalism,” using a term to describe French influence in its former African colonies. Mahamadou Sawadogo, leader of the Burkina-Russia association, said during Saturday’s protest that there were “other opportunities for cooperation” in the fight against jihadis, notably from Moscow. Some protesters on Saturday held Russian flags and giant posters of the leaders of Mali and Guinea, West African neighbors that, like Burkina Faso, are ruled by military juntas following coups. Monique Yeli Kam, a former presidential candidate and a major figure in the anti-France movement, told AFP Burkina Faso’s turn toward Moscow and the Russian paramilitary group Wagner was “also a form of sovereignty.” “The old powers tend to treat us like children by … Continue reading “Burkina Rally Celebrate Word That French Troops Will Leave”

Paris Rallies Demand Freedom for Europeans in Iran

Families and friends of a growing number of Europeans imprisoned in Iran gathered in Paris Saturday to call for their release.  The French government this week denounced the plight of seven French citizens held in Iranian prisons, calling the detentions “unjustifiable and unacceptable.”  Iran has detained a number of foreigners and dual nationals over the years, accusing them of espionage or other state security offenses. Many were convicted and sentenced after secretive trials in which rights groups said they were denied due process.  Supporters and family members of four of the current French prisoners — Louis Arnaud, Fariba Adelkhah, Benjamin Briere and Cecile Kohler — held a solemn, silent rally for their release Saturday on a plaza overlooking the Seine River.  The supporters said all were wrongly accused and some were in fragile physical or psychological health, or placed in isolation. “They are deprived of the most basic rights,” unable to contact loved ones, the supporters said in a statement.  Arnaud was arrested September 28 as he was traveling in Iran as a tourist, according to France’s Foreign Ministry. Another prisoner, Bernard Phelan, was detained last year and is in need of medical care that is not being provided, according to the ministry.  Earlier Saturday, dozens of people gathered in a park beneath the Eiffel Tower to show support for detained Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele. Vandecasteele, who worked for many years for aid group Doctors of the World, was arrested in Tehran in February 2022. Doctors of the World said the conditions of his detention were putting Vandecasteele’s life at risk.  Most of the European prisoners were detained before the protests that have shaken Iran since September over the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody. Concerns about the detentions have grown as Iranian authorities have cracked down on the protesters.  …

Russian Strike Kills 3; Zelenskyy Seeks Long-Range Missiles

A Russian missile strike on a city in the eastern region of Donetsk killed at least three people Saturday as Ukrainian forces engaged Russian troops in ferocious battles in several hot spots in the east, where Moscow has been pressing its offensive with increased urgency amid Western pledges of modern tank deliveries for Kyiv.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used the occasion to press Western partners to supply his nation with long-range precision missiles, known as ATACMS, to reduce Russia’s ability to target cities.    “It would be possible to stop this Russian terror if we could source the appropriate missiles for our military forces,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Saturday.  Earlier, Zelenskyy had said major battles were underway for Vuhledar and Bakhmut, a town that has been virtually razed by repeated Russian artillery bombardments.  In the Donetsk city of Kostyantynivka, a Russian strike on a residential neighborhood killed three people and wounded at least 14 others, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.  Factory worker Iryna Maltseva, 42, said she was watching television when the explosion violently rattled her living room.    “I opened my eyes, and everything was blown out,” she said. “I was covered in blood. Mom was sitting in the bedroom, also covered in blood.”  Kyrylenko said four apartment buildings and a hotel had been damaged and that rescuers and police officials were at the site to “carefully document yet another crime by the Russian occupiers.”  “Kostyantynivka is a city relatively far from the front line, but still, it constantly suffers from enemy attacks. Everyone who remains in the city exposes themselves to mortal danger,” Kyrylenko said, according to The Associated Press. “The Russians target civilians because they are not able to fight the Ukrainian army.”  Earlier Saturday, Kyrylenko said four people had been killed and at least seven wounded by Russian strikes in the last 24 hours.  The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its daily report early Saturday that Russian troops continued to press on with a multipronged offensive in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.  “The enemy continues to conduct offensive actions in the Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka directions,” the General Staff said. “In the Kupyansk, Lyman, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson directions, the enemy is on the defensive.”  Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatiy told local media that “there is fierce combat” in Vuhledar.  “For many months, the military of the Russian Federation … Continue reading “Russian Strike Kills 3; Zelenskyy Seeks Long-Range Missiles”